Senate urged to include new commitment to hydro in jobs legislation

22 September 2011

In a statement released yesterday, Kevin Frank, President and CEO of Voith Hydro, and Marc Gerken, President and CEO of American Municipal Power (AMP), have called for the passage of the Hydropower Improvement Act, which has already passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee with strong bipartisan support.

“Hydropower is our nation’s most efficient form of energy generation and has tremendous job-growth potential,” Frank said. “The Hydropower Improvement Act would go a long way to help us meet hydropower’s potential by streamlining the regulatory process and improving research and development at the Department of Energy. In the process, we will create good-paying jobs across the country. I urge President Obama and the Senate to pass this legislation as quickly as possible.”

Sponsored by Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK), the Hydropower Improvement Act would provide regulatory improvements to support project development by encouraging a more efficient licensing process for non-powered dams and closed-loop pumped storage projects and better interagency coordination for small hydro projects. The bill would also create a grant program to support efficiency improvements and capacity additions at existing hydropower facilities and require the Department of Energy to create a research and development program for the purposes of increasing the US’ use of hydropower, among other provisions.

"AMP is undertaking the largest development of new run-of-the-river hydropower in the country, with four projects under construction on the Ohio River,” Gerken said. “These projects are bringing much needed jobs and investment We consider hydropower the highest value renewable energy resource due to its day-ahead forecasting benefits and availability factor, which is 2 to 3 times that of wind or solar. Improving the efficiency of the permitting processes, as called for in the Hydropower Improvement Act, will encourage more job creation and greater project economics for both AMP and the hydropower industry at large.”

Letters of support for the Hydropower Improvement Act were sent to the White House and Majority and Minority Leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell.

Recently, Voith Hydro partnered with AMP to build four hydropower generators along the Ohio River. Each project will create 200-400 new construction jobs. As a result of these projects and others, Voith Hydro was able to create 126 new jobs in the last three years, during a time in which many companies were forced to downsize.

Hydropower is available in every part of the US, employing approximately 300,000 workers nationwide and providing 30M US households with clean energy. Though hydropower currently accounts for over 7% of the US’ entire energy portfolio, and approximately 65% of its renewable energy generation, there is still more potential.

Currently, only 3% of the over 80,000 dams in the US produce power. A 2009 study found that with the right policies in place, the country can create 1.4 million cumulative jobs by 2025 by maximizing these non-powered dams and existing hydropower infrastructure and developing pumped storage and new marine and hydrokinetic technologies. In the process, 60,000MW of electricity could be added to the nation’s electric grid.

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